Arbitration Headline Sports Agents Sports Law

Collection Of Contract Fees After The Death Of An Agent

The following article is provided by Ryan Earls, CEO of Cover3 Representation LLC.  You can follow Ryan on Twitter at @AskAnNFLAgent.

The recent death of Gary Wichard sparked a round-table discussion between a few agents on Twitter.  The question posed:

“Are contract fees due to the estate of the agent after his/her death for the remaining years of a contract that he/she negotiatied on behalf of the football player?”

Respected former NFL player and NFL Agent Ralph Cindrich believed any fees due to the agent or his/her estate ceased with the NFL Agent’s passing.  Darren Heitner (the owner of this blog) and I, believed the fees are due to the estate and that there is an obligation to pay beyond death for services previously rendered.

Mark Levin of the NFLPA* (* a trade association) confirmed what Darren and I suspected, that the fees are due to the estate for services previously rendered, including the negotiation of contracts with NFL football teams. Services not previously rendered would not be due after the death of the agent. In this scenario, Player X has contractual negotiations in June 2010, enters into a 4 year contract and agent passes away in December 2011. The agent’s estate would be due all contractual negotiation fees (i.e. 3%) for the entire length of the 4-year player contract, assuming he makes the roster the entire 4 years. The player would not be obligated to pay for any other services agreed to, such as tax preparation, assuming that was part of the representation agreement, and the estate of the athlete, presumably would not be obligated to provide such services.

The Standard Representation Agreement (SRA) the NFLPA* previously used (and continues to encourage its agents to use) is still a legal document and binds any argument or dispute to a procedure that “shall be resolved exclusively through the arbitration procedures set forth in Section 5 of the NFLPA Regulations Governing Contract Advisors.”
If the NFLPA is now a trade association and doesn’t currently regulate its agents, who is the governing body? Certainly any state with regulations clearly spelled out, or UAAA state, would be one to possibly handle any dispute within its jurisdiction, but for now this remains unresolved during the labor dispute.

This will be one we keep our eye on in the coming months and years after the death of Gary Wichard.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.